Top Hiking Trails in Central America

One of the main reasons why Central America is known around the world is for being a place that still keeps most of its forests and jungles. The climate is also warm, making it even more unique. This has turned it into one of the top destinations for nature lovers.  

There are many different activities that will allow you to see everything that the forests of Central America have to offer, but one of the best for adventurers is hiking. Each of the countries featured here literally offers hundreds of trails but there are a few that get more attention from visitors and for good reason.  

  • 01 of 07
    By: Denis Fournier | Flickr

    Cusuco National Park was created in 1959. The area is extremely rich when it comes to wildlife, and is home to a number of endangered species of amphibians. It is located on northwestern Honduras, and very easy to access from Copan Town and San Pedro Sula.

    When you go for a visit and walk along its trails, all nature lovers will appreciate the local flora. Keep your eyes open as you search for animals and listen carefully -- if you hear the sound of water, follow it. You just might run into a waterfall. Within the park, you also find the entrance to the Taulabe Caves. The best time to visit is early in the morning if you want to see the local wildlife.​

    Pico Bonito National Park

    Pico Bonito National Park was created in 1987, and also found in northern Honduras. This is one of the parks that are part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. It is one of the most popular parks to visit in the country among adventurers. There are many different activities being offered in it such as birdwatching, rafting, kayaking, and hiking.

    Hiring a tour guide is recommended as the trails are considered moderate to hard. Some of the wildlife you might experience are howler monkeys and colorful birds or jaguars (if you're lucky).

    Montaña de Celaque National Park

    This National Park is home to Honduras’s highest peak -- Cerro Las Minas (at 2,870 meters), found in the western region of Honduras.

    The National Park was created in 1987 with the goal of protecting the local cloud forest. The park is also home to jaguar and pumas that you might find while you explore it. One day hikes are common but it is a lot more fun to do an overnight tour.

  • 02 of 07
    By: Javier Ruata | Flickr

    Acatenango Volcano National Park

    Hiking up this volcano can be considered difficult to most people but it is extremely rewarding. Most tours to it are overnight because it takes 5 to 8 hours to go up to the crater or one of the lookout points depending on how much weight you are carrying and your physical condition. La Soledad, the town from where you start to climb is located only 20 minutes away from Antigua via a dirt road.

    The beauty of it is that it allows you to go through different terrains, first plantations, second a tropical forest then a pine forest. Lastly, you will reach a section with no trees just deep, black sand where you give one step up and the volcano will take you two steps down.

    When you finally get to the crater you get the most amazing view from its neighbor, the always active Fuego Volcano.

    Pacaya Volcano National Park

    Visiting this national park gives you the chance to see another of the three active volcanoes in Guatemala. This volcano offers an easy to moderate hike. Because it is active at very low levels you get to walk along recently solidified lava, and you might even get to be able to be meters away from lava rivers.

    You can camp in a safe area in a nearby mountain with awesome views to it. However, the most common tours to it normally last only one day.

    Tikal National Park

    Tikal National Park was created to protect, explore and learn about one of the largest and most spectacular Mayan Archaeological sites ever found. The park is composed of many different trails that take you along the different structures hidden in the middle of the jungle and is filled with monkeys, colorful birds, peacocks and a few jaguars.

    This is a huge park but the length of it depends on how much you want to see. You can also camp inside of it. Keep in mind that the weather is hot and humid here so take a lot of water with you. 

  • 03 of 07

    Trails in Costa Rica

    By: cjsingh | Flickr

    Arenal Volcano National Park

    Here comes yet another volcano -- this one was created in 1991 to protect the flora and fauna in and around Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake. The area is home to 12 different ecosystems and life zones. Anyone can visit the park between 8 am to 3 pm.   

    Among its many attributes, we can mention the crazy amount of birds. There are over 850 species living in the park. The flora and fauna are also extremely varied.

    Arenal Volcano is also active right now, so if you're lucky you might get a lava show. 

    Corcovado National Park

    This park is located on the Osa Peninsula, in the southwestern area of the country. It is the largest national park in Costa Rica and the most impressive one. Known as one of the most biodiverse places in the world, it was even named by National Geographic as the most biologically intense place on earth. While walking its trails you can expect to see a wide variety of different animal species as well as habitats.

    The park even has white sanded beaches lined by the jungle. These are still almost deserted. The area is huge and hard to explore everything there is to see in one day but luckily they offer the option of camping in the ranges stations.

    Manuel Antonio National Park

    Manuel Antonio National Park was created in 1972 and is also located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This might be one of the smallest in the country but it is outstandingly beautiful so much that Forbes named it one of the most beautiful beaches and hiking trails in 2011. It is also the second most visited park in the country.

    What makes it so beautiful are its white sanded beaches and the colorful coral reefs off of its coast. Its trails offer an easy to moderate hike that is loved by all visitors, especially birders and eco-tourists.

  • 04 of 07
    By: Rosa_Poser

    Telica Volcano

    This volcano happens to be the most active one in Nicaragua. It is located in the Leon department, extremely close to Leon City. A visit here is a must for nature lovers planning to visit the area.   

    You get the option of walking its trail for just a couple of hours or you can also choose an overnight tour. The hike has a moderate difficulty and it takes about five hours to get to its peak. Whenever the volcano is not erupting visitors can even get to the edge of the crater to take a peek at the lava inside of it. 

    Concepcion Volcano

    This is one of the two volcanoes that formed the Ometepe Island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. It is another active volcano but its last formal eruption happened in 2010, so it is quite safe to visit now. You'll still get to see tons of fumaroles near the crater.   

    This one is for people in good physical health, as it can be quite tough to climb -- it might not be very high, but it is steep. Though it poses a challenge, it provides an amazing reward when you get to the top. You will be speechless with those views.   

    Miraflor Natural Reserve

    Miraflor Natural Reserve protects three different ecosystems located 30km away from Estelí. The trails in it are beautiful and really easy to walk through. They will take you along forests that hide a lot of local animals. One of the main reasons to visit it is the opportunity to see the impressive amount of orchid species there (there are over 200 species).

    Another thing that makes it unique is the fact that there are nine communities living within the reserve that survive on agriculture. Locals from some of those communities offer spaces where visitors are allowed to camp.  

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
    By: Victoria Reay | Flickr

    Guanacaste National Park

    The Guanacaste National Park was created in 1973 and is one of the most accessible in Belize. Open daily for visitors. you can go for a hike along it 3km of trails with the whole family -- it's a doable hike for all ages.

    Plus you will be able to see a few of the many species of birds in it. Other common sightings include deer and armadillos. 

    Blue Hole National Park

    It should be clarified that this is not the offshore Great Blue Hole. Instead, it is a national park with an extension of 500 acres that is home to a cave system in the middle of the jungle. Belizean government created it in 1986 and is home to over 200 bird species, ocelots, jaguarondis, and jaguars.

    The hole was formed when the cave system formed by a river collapsed. There are trails that take you to it, which are all well marked. There are tons of stairs so keep that in mind.

    Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

    Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Stann Creek district of Belize. This was the first wilderness sanctuary established to protect the Jaguar. Aside from jaguars it also protects the local river systems. In it, you can find tons of small, creeks and waterfalls.

    Among the most common wildlife encounters there are colorful birds, wildcats, tapir, and deer. This is a tropical region so it is going to be hot and it will probably rain so be prepared.

  • 06 of 07
    By: Emily G. Round | Flickr

    Quetzal Trail, Volcán Barú National Park

    The Quetzal Trail is the most popular hiking trail in the country. You will find it on one side of Barú volcano and was created to protect three different habitats. It is the perfect place to experience the best that Panama has to offer -- hiking its trails is pretty easy.

    However what truly attracts people here is that it is home to the endangered resplendent quetzal. It can also be found in Guatemala and Belize too but is extremely rare.

    Pirre Mountain, Darién National Park

    Hiking along this trail can be quite challenging but it is worth the effort. Because it is located in one of the most remote areas of the country it still has healthy populations of animal species. It also provides gorgeous views. The place is heaven for bird watchers.

    The trail that leads to the mountain can be accessed from Pierre station. From here you can also choose to take the one that takes you to the waterfalls.

    Soberanía National Park

    Soberanía National Park is also considered heaven for birdwatchers because of the great number of species that live in it. You'll also get the chance to see monkeys and sloths on the treetops. Your chances increase as you go deeper into the forest. Plus, it is quite close to the Panama Canal.

    It offers different trails but the most popular one is called Las Cruces. It is the route that Spaniard conquerors used during the 16th century to transport gold.

  • 07 of 07
    By: ogwen | Flickr

    Santa Ana Volcano

    This volcano also goes by the name of Ilamatepec and is only 2,381 meters above sea level. It may not look like much but it is the tallest one in the country and its last eruption was in 2005.

    Santa Ana Volcano provides a short, moderate hike that won’t take more than two hours. At first, you are taken through a cloud forest, then through an almost deserted landscape. When you finally get to the crater you get much more than pretty views: If you look inside of it you will see a gorgeous turquoise sulfur lake. 

    Izalco Volcano

    Izalco volcano is right next to Santa Ana Volcano. It is very young, as it started forming in 1770 and stopped in 1958. During the colonial days, people used to call it “Lighthouse of the Pacific”, as you could see its eruptions from afar from the sea.

    To get to the point where you start climbing the volcano you have to first go to Cerro Verde Park. You then go down through a staircase with almost two thousand steps. The whole volcano will feel like walking through a desert or black sand.

    Cerro El Pital

    At 2,730 meters above sea level, its peak is the highest point in El Salvador. You will find it on the border with Honduras. You should definitely visit it if you want to explore the beauties of a cloud forest. The mountain is home to endangered species including quetzals.

    It can be quite a challenging hike, but all of the efforts will be worth it once you get to the huge rocks from where you'll see your gorgeous surroundings.